The MG ZS EV: Ulez-busting family transport from new ‘long range’ MG

·6-min read
The MG ZS EV: Ulez-busting family transport from new ‘long range’ MG

With impeccable timing - coinciding with COP-26 and market evidence that interest in plug-in electric cars is soaring - MG has been showing off the latest version of its ZS EV, SUV. In London, no less.

The car was originally launched in 2019 - the first ever all-electric MG - and has performed well for the company owned by SAIC, Motor Corporation Limited, a Chinese state-owned multinational automotive design and manufacturing company headquartered in Shanghai.

A mid-sized, fuss-free SUV with five doors, a high-riding stance, a good-sized boot and distinctive looks, the new model incorporates major improvements that should win it a new following.

The first is that the all-important batteries have been upgraded. A new 51 kWh battery, available from next year, will offer a claimed range of 198 miles (compared to 163 miles from the old 44kWh unit, the only one previously available), costing from around £25,000. The more powerful 72 kWh battery - arriving in the new ZS EV later in November - gives a hugely improved range of 273 miles.

The 72 kWh version will cost from £28,495 (after the £2,500 plug-in grant has been taken into account). MG says that if bought on PCP contract - which many buyers opt for - the 72 kWh version will cost from £319 a month on a typical 10,000 miles-per-annum deal over 36 months.

MG is delighted to point this out because deals on rival electric cars - such as Vauxhall’s Mokka-e and Peugeot’s E-2008, cost more.... while having less impressive battery ranges.

MG ZS EV (Handout)
MG ZS EV (Handout)

Brixton

Other changes on the new version? There’s now a ‘stamped effect’ front grille, more stylish LED front headlights, a smarter rear bumper, new wheels... and a new colour. Charmingly, for Londoners, it’s called ‘Battersea Blue’, and complements the existing Brixton Blue and Pimlico Blue colours.

The infotainment unit has been smartened up, and there’s a more streamlined new instrument cluster. The ZS EV now gets ‘iSMART’, enabling owners to monitor charging from their phone, also letting them remotely lock and unlock the car, even to pre-warm, or pre-cool it, before actually climbing inside. The app also helps you find your car - for instance when you’ve parked it in a maze of streets, and can’t quite remember where...

 (Handout)
(Handout)

The ZS EV now has a 500kg towing capacity and a wireless charging pad for smartphones, up front. There’s also an external indicator - hiding inside the charging point, which has been slightly moved to one side at the front, for more convenience - showing the state of charge at a glance.

Equipment levels are - generally - good. The SE comes with, for instance, a suite of safety aids including Active Emergency Braking with Pedestrian and Bicycle Detection, alongside Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning and Traffic Jam Assist (nice in post-LTN-congested London). It also has Intelligent Speed Limit Assist and Intelligent High Beam Assist.

Buyers must move up to the Trophy however to get Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, dashing silver roof rails, heated front seats and so on.

Quiet

So what’s the new car like to drive? Just like other all-electric cars, it’s very quiet (eerily so if you’re not used to the experience) and, with all that power available at low speeds, very responsive. It’s certainly more than up to the cut and thrust of city driving, and the high-up riding position is great in town too.

 (Handout)
(Handout)

In fact responsiveness can be ‘tuned’ with three simple buttons - Eco, Normal and Sport - on the centre console. Sport does indeed sharpen up the acceleration but - if you’re expecting a sports car-like feel in line with MG’s heritage - think again. It feels reasonably refined, but not hugely engaging, and there is some lean in faster corners. The amount of braking effect from the engine can be switched between three modes too, but there’s not enough retardation to drive on just one pedal, as you can in some competitors.

The interior is spacious - as is that usefully ‘family-sized’ boot - although some of the materials feel less than premium. Door pockets are generous, however and there’s a small amount of additional stowage space under the central armrest up front, together with two well placed cupholders. The ride is reasonably cushioned - even over London’s potholes - although the steering feels slightly ‘numb’ in bends and curves.

Miss

Even on the Trophy, there was no adjustable lumbar support that would have enhanced the driver’s seat, and no way of memorising the chosen electric seat position. The steering wheel can be adjusted only for tilt, not reach. More irritating was the location of the ‘wand’ for operating the cruise control and distance control - it’s totally concealed by one of the steering wheel spokes. How did the designers miss that?

MG ZS EV (Handout)
MG ZS EV (Handout)

Charging? MG says that an 80 per cent boost will take around 42 minutes at a public rapid-charging station, while the on-board 7kw charger permits home charging in around 10 hours. There’s even a handy stowage compartment for the cables underneath the boot floor - handy, that is, if you don’t have to empty the boot of luggage first, to get at it.

Cleverly, ‘V2L’ has now been included on the new ZS EV, meaning it’s possible to power other electrical equipment - perhaps a Flymo, or to charge your electric bicycle - if you pay extra for a suitable cable. Now that’s joined-up thinking.

With that expanded battery range and practical, value-for-money ethic, the new MG ZS EV is likely to prove even more popular than its predecessor, and will serve well as efficient, clean, ULEZ-busting family transport in cities such as London, where it also will be exempt from the congestion charge - up until that exemption ends, in 2025.

London calling

Did you know that SAIC has a key, advanced design studio right in the heart of London, off Marylebone Road, working alongside one in Shanghai?

Boasting a team of 20 international designers it shapes the look – and feel – of cars consumers will be driving a few years hence, as well as producing highly futuristic ‘concept’ cars to fire the public’s imagination, and to show off at motor shows.

 (SAIC Design)
(SAIC Design)

Led by Design Director Carl Gotham, and working on MGs as well as other SAIC-owned brands, the team moves through a tried and trusted creative process starting with research, moving on to ‘ideation’, before digitising the ideas, then modelling them, then engaging in CMF (Colour Materials and Finish), then onto ‘experience and interaction’, before ‘evolution’ - using virtual reality among other tools, to visualise the end result.

Why London? According to Carl, it’s a “vibrant”, pulsating, culturally-rich city that is ideal for sparking imaginative new ideas. As part of their immersion in London life, the designers look at prevailing cultural trends, vehicles, architecture – and anything else that fires their imagination.

“London inspires our designers every day, in different ways,” says Carl. “It is a great place to be coming up with new ideas.”

Just in case the creatives forget where they are, one of their designers has produced a lavish montage summing up what London means for him (above). It dominates one wall of the design studio, complete with famous landmarks, cultural references, vehicles from buses to bicycles, a cast of characters and other capital symbols.

The Facts

MG ZS EV 72 kWh Trophy Connect

Price: £31,495 (after plug-in grant taken into account)

Transmission: Single-speed automatic, front wheel drive

Top speed: 108 mph

0-62mph: 8.4 seconds

Range: 271 miles

On sale now

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